What does it mean to be the “largest small city”? On Friday morning, I sat before city officials who referred to Philadelphia as such and could not be more proud to work here. One woman was collaborating with the School District of Philadelphia to introduce a community school strategy that will hopefully better the overall wellbeing of students beyond just the quality of their education. She spoke of running focus groups with passionate teachers, parents, school nurses, and community members to determine what resources were lacking for students to grow in a particular community.
Another was the Director of Performance Management, who communicates with and assesses the needs of the city’s thousands of employees to help departments reach their potentials. I was surprised to learn from her that the city collects far more data than it knows how to analyze, that it is still determining what questions to ask to create change.
There is so much potential stored within this city that I want to live here after graduation. To understand this potential, it is important to consider the city’s recent history. Philadelphia in 1950 had a population of over 2 million people and a well-established public transportation system to support this number and more. Yet during the next half of the century, “white flight” drew families out of the city and into the suburbs causing a decline in population by 500,000 by the year 2000. My family, all Philadelphia natives, talks of how there was little appeal to walk around downtown after dark. Only in the past 10-15 years, the city’s numbers have started to increase; neighborhoods across the city have become hotspots for young families, one gaining particular attention from Brooklyn residents looking for a less expensive market. Yesterday, I visited Fishtown, a neighborhood I had never visited in all my time living just over the Philadelphia county border. Several new restaurants and stores recently popped up along its main street, and a popular and delicious coffee shop has just opened their home base, too.
And although Philadelphia’s sports teams have been performing far from stellar, I am glad to call this place home. I really look forward to experiencing how city residents and officials work together to set Philadelphia as a model for other cities across the nation. With the DNC beginning on Monday, I hope more Americans will see what the city has to offer and decide to visit. With love, Philadelphia.